Malacanang on Wednesday welcomed an offer from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to loosen the Philippines’ restrictions on overseas deployment of health workers in exchange for Covid-19 vaccines.

In a virtual presser, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said there was no reason to thumb down a deal that would allow the country to secure more Covid-19 vaccine doses, even though he said the country had ordered enough shots.

“Nag-order po tayo, sapat, sobra-sobra pa nga po, mga 90 million nga po ang in-order natin, sinobrahan na natin. Pero siyempre kung mas marami pang supply ang makukuha natin, bakit hindi?” he said.

According to Alice Visperas, director of the International Labor Affairs Bureau, the DOLE had requested Covid-19 vaccines from the UK and Germany and offered to ease the country’s limit on the overseas deployment of health workers set at 5,000 per year.

Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte was not informed of the proposal.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has called the proposal a “sign of desperation.”

“For the government to go this far as trading off its Filipino health workers in exchange for vaccines means something is not right in the government’s coronavirus vaccination strategy,” he said in a statement.

Duterte in November last year lifted the prohibition on overseas deployment of medical workers amid the Covid-19 crisis but only allowed 5,000 “new hires” to be deployed every year.

The country has yet to launch its nationwide inoculation campaign. John Ezekiel J. Hirro